The words I’ll write are a story. They’re the story of someone going to Lundy Island, having an incomprehensible time, and then relaying that adventure to you. If I tried to truly express to you the experience I had, it would only make me remember the events all wrong and I can’t risk that.
Destination #8: Lundy Island.
I kept telling people I found this place in an article I read about amazing islands around the world. I can’t say if that’s truth, but it’s better than, “I dunno why I’m here,” which has potential to be equal in truth.
We were delayed a day due to storms and I hated it, but I was at a nice Bed and Breakfast. My hosts Sally and John spent their time during my stay checking the weather and keeping me informed, asking other locals for updates. When the news came through that we were delayed, they had already planned to leave town for the weekend, so they phoned up another B&B and within minutes I had another place to stay. They even drove me to the other place.
At this B&B another couple stayed, waiting out the delay on their way to Lundy. Ed and Holly were doing a working interview in hopes to move to the island to live and work. Everyone that lived on the island worked to be there. No one retired, no one sat on lumps of money. If you lived there, you had to help keep the island functioning.
We woke up the next morning and Ed and Holly gave me a ride out with them to the helipad. I somehow was chosen for the first flight of four to get all 15 vacationers to the island.
We waited out a hailstorm and then they strapped me into the front seat. Patrick the Pilot was very nice. We rode with all the produce and supplies for the weekend, so it was just him and I.
We took off, the ground shoving away from us, leaned forward and within moments we were above water and only water.
I had never seen anything like that before. The water was a color we haven’t made a word for in English. Blue, yes, green, yes, but also this gray color but glowing, illuminated by the sun and also by the lack of sun.
I could spend (as my mother well knows now) an hour just talking about the way the ocean looked to me that day, and very soon I’ll have a longer, more intimate telling of my time on Lundy posted. For now, just know, the romance I had with that ocean started in that moment.
Six minutes later we were on the ground. I checked into my room and set out for a walk. The sun illuminated the island. Each blade of grass, every single weed glowed like the soil was made of something different. The shadows were darker and the tips were brighter.
I walked for a maximum of thirty minutes before the wind brought in a hailstorm so strong I had welts on my face as the pelts came in horizontally. I rushed back to my room and was stranded for the rest of the day as the storm raged on.
My room was cold.
It got colder.
It got so cold I thought I’d die in there if I stayed any longer. So I did the unthinkable.
I went to the only tavern/restaurant/reception on the island at five in the afternoon. I arrived and Ed and Holly were there with all the other people who worked at the island, siting in a large circle drinking. I ordered a whiskey and asked if there was anything to do about how cold my room was. The bartender slammed on the counter.
Presumably Rob, an older man with what I believe is a hearing problem eventually turned around.
“This lady’s room is freezing. Can you go take a look?”
He agreed, and I handed him my key.
“You lock your room?” He asked. No one locks their room on this island. Process of elimination would narrow down the suspect, and they’d have no real place to put anything they stole from you. It was a fairly honest community.
He left and I sat with Ed and Holly.
Then met Pete, a metalhead. We talked classic rock, the cool middle ground between us dad rockers and those metal-heads. Zeppelin, Sabbath, even as far back at Chuck Berry and naturally we even squeezed in a “Free Bird” joke.
“You can’t drink Jameson out here.”
He bought me a Red Breast. And then another, nicer whiskey. Then Tom came around and bought me a rum because “whiskey’s all wrong.”
Rob came back with my key and encouraged me to turn on the heater if I wanted warmth.
I drank. Freely. Knowing I’m not not an alcoholic who’s trying to cure herself of a serious problem. I didn’t feel guilty.
At least until I started to notice these people were not going to stop. A bottle of rum was brought out and passed around the table. I may have had two shots of that. I want to say that’s where I stopped, give or take (give) a whiskey or a rum. And over the course of the night I collected in front of me a shot of Sambuca, vodka, whiskey and a mixed drink that I did not touch. Several bottles of wine were emptied and beer bottles covered the entire useable surface of the table.
I’m a six drink kinda guy. Which sounds terrible, I suppose, but it kept me from the seventh as it most often did.
I watched as the scene went from friendly drinking to what I think the concept of the book It is. A seemingly harmless clown who is actually stuff of nightmares.
Tom poured rum into Ash’s hands for him to lap up like dog while the night bartender Joe pulled his hair out from behind the counter.
The room literally reduced to shouting, barking, strong and aggressive language in weird places at weird times, and screaming.
Joe yelled last call, and I thought that meant it was over. Of course, they don’t lock the tavern either so it was fairly customary for the bartender to leave and people to stay until they decided it was time to go home.
Zoe went away for a moment and when she came back into the room, she held a bottle of wine like gold. The room hooted and hollered. Tom caught her on her way over and picked her up, flipping her around in his lap only to immediately drop her on her head.
She dropped the bottle of wine and it shattered red spew over the floor. Tom stood up and promptly fell back onto his chair, which smashed into pieces under him. He fell into Sam’s chair and she went down, her chair broken into a cage pinning her down.
Miraculously no one was hurt except maybe Joe’s patience. He flew around the bar and screamed at the indifferent people.
“GET OUT. IT’S TIME TO GO.”
No one moved. Except me. I left, because I had seen enough. I wasn’t moving here to work, I didn’t know these people, and I shouldn’t even be drinking. So I went home.
This was all before the lights went out, which is how the locals describe the moment when the power on the island shuts off. Midnight.
I got in bed fairly disappointed, though I allowed myself freedom from guilt. The moment happened. I didn’t need to tack baggage onto it. It happened, I hated being drunk and being in that environment, and now I needed to sleep. So I did just that.
The next morning I woke up and by the grace of Alanis Morissette, I wasn’t hungover. I got ready and I made my way out onto the island.
This is the fairytale I will tell you: it was the most important day of my life. The things I saw, the thoughts I had, the time I spent, it all contributed to the best day of my life.
It’s a fairytale because I simply can’t explain to you (though I tried, sorry mom) everything that happened and what it meant to me and how it filtered through me. It’s impossible to explain the incredible vastness of the ocean, that at the end of the world is a painting with the straightest line where the sky and the water touch. That I met the curve of the earth. That I finally felt and understood that I was alive.
I spent the entire day hiking around the island and did not see another person. Not off in the distance or down by the water. Nowhere. I was completely alone and it was so freeing. I had more room in my lungs and in my heart and in my head than I’ve ever had before.
I cried all day.
Not because of my fear, not because of my experiences or my future or who I’ve become or what I’ve done.
I cried because I was sitting on a rock on top of an island in the middle of the Bristol Channel off the coast of England and it was absolutely beautiful. Incomprehensibly beautiful. Utterly stunning.
I cried because I was grateful to be me, to have worked my ass off, to have struggled every day of this trip to get me here right now in the moment and to see what I was seeing.
I narrowly escaped a hailstorm inside the lighthouse. I got to the top of the 360 view literal moments before the ice smashed against the windows. And I waited, sitting in the conveniently placed sun chair until it passed, just watching.
When I went down, before my eyes a rainbow appeared. I watched as it came into focus, so bright the colors had hard lines. It touched from one side of the island to the other, and I sat and watched it until, in the most beautiful moment of my life, it faded into the blue sky. It was a sweet moment that’ll take a lifetime to express completely.
It got dark and I made my way back completely full up on fresh air and gratitude.
The next morning I woke up early. I cleaned my place and packed and left early to take a walk. I sat on a rock and just couldn’t believe my eyes all over again. I hadn’t used social media or connected with the world in two days and it left me with my thoughts. Truly and honestly. I didn’t have a thought and then immediately research it, or find an image I like so I could replicate it. I didn’t compare myself to anyone for two days.
And the thoughts I brought in with me revolved around wishing I was someone else. The people I envied got theirs and I wanted to get mine. God, it feel so selfish to say it.
It’s an unbelievable privilege to have to go to an island in the middle of the ocean to see that I’ve already got mine and it’s pretty good.
I was in the front seat again, and Patrick the Pilot asked about my time. I had to keep from crying when I told him it was really nice. I cried because I was leaving and I just didn’t want to, but I was really crying because it happened and I was so grateful. I was just so unbelievably grateful to have that time with myself, and with the water, and with the world.